On June 2nd, 2012, 28 runners and walkers, alongside seven volunteers, turned up at Bicentennial Park at 9 am in Livonia, Michigan, a town in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. They have turned up 243 Saturdays since, almost without interruption, and on June 3rd, 2017 they came in large numbers to celebrate the fifth anniversary of parkrun USA.
The date was celebrated across the country: in Richmond, Virginia, parkrun Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt inaugurated parkrun USA’s 10th event: Deep Run parkrun. In Washington, DC, the Council of the District of Columbia approved a special ceremonial resolution marking the date as “parkrun day”, and signaled their intention to continue supporting weekly free health and fitness events.
For parkrun USA, with Paul Sinton-Hewitt among us, it was more like a birthday week rather than a parkrun day: on May 27th, a new all-time attendance record of 599 was broken, with Paul running with the College Park crowd with visitors from Clermont Waterfront and Mansfield parkruns, at another record-breaking event. Fletcher’s Cove hosted a Sunday picnic for Paul and the visiting crowed with, of course, a Freedom Run (an unofficial, off-Saturday, yet timed and recorded parkrun). Later in the week, at Roosevelt Island, Paul was greeted by the trusty core volunteer group, for a walk along the beautiful island and presidential memorial. Paul, parkrun USA manager Darrell Stanaford, and other volunteers in the USA team, spent the remainder of the Memorial Day week in meetings with a variety of stakeholder groups, including parks authorities, nonprofits, and health insurers.
A highlight of Paul’s visit to the US, College Park parkrun’s power duo, Colin Phillips and Andrea Zukowski, who are faculty of the University of Maryland at College Park, convened a high-level event, Think Globally, Act Locally, to introduce parkrun to a variety of key stakeholder groups, to explore ideas and opportunities for collaboration. This included leaders of nonprofits working in trail conservation, on social issues such as homelessness, academics from areas as broad as public health, physical fitness, economics, business, language sciences (that’s Colin and Andrea!), our partners from the American Cancer Society, representatives of parks and recreation authorities, as well as the City of College Park’s own mayor, Patrick Wojahn, a regular and enthusiastic parkrunner, as well as other parkrunners with important day jobs.
Paul’s visit marked an important turning point for parkrun USA: five years after our first event, parkrun is finally poised to spread across the nation as it has across the world. parkrun’s inspiring vision has been that every community in the world that wants a parkrun, a free, timed, community-led 5 km run, should have one. Paul also reminded us time and again that parkrun isn’t only – or even primarily – about the running: running brings us together as human beings, and as communities, healing minds and bodies and rebuilding the frayed fabric of our societies. Happy birthday, parkrun USA!
How did a Thursday in late November become the world’s biggest day for running? Why is participation in other running events plateauing? Two recent articles point to the same conclusion. People want to take part in events that are affordable, lack gimmicks, and that focus on social support. Sound familiar? The US running market…
A time to pause and be thankful … “parkrun creates a sense of community centered around physical and psychological well-being. Young, old, male, female, any background, it’s all inclusive. I like the fact that it is an addictive behavior in a positive way. Once they start, most people can’t stay away.” Tom Anderson –…